The Lady Cougars scored two goals in the last seven minutes of Sunday's NJCAA Division III Women's Soccer Regional Championship to claim their 4th New England title in the last five seasons. Having been shutout for 280 minutes against the Bunker Hill Bulldogs this season, HCC was able to score when it mattered most and reclaim the Region 21 crown.
Bunker Hill's Charlotte Groves put the Bulldogs ahead early with a goal in the 13th minute. The score would remain 1-0 in favor of Bunker Hill through halftime and well into the second half.
With time winding down, the largest crowd that O'Connell Field has seen this season continued to make noise and show support for their Lady Cougars. In the 83rd minute, freshman forward Lauren Jaskula (Bondsville) gave them something to cheer about when she buried the game-tying goal in the back-left corner of the net.
With the score knotted at 1-1, sophomore midfielder Leigh Strycharz (Westfield) drew contact heading toward the goal. Freshman defender Taylor Kachinski (Palmer) calmly stepped up and put home the free kick, giving HCC the lead with less than five minutes remaining. The Lady Cougars held on the rest of the way and were crowned New England Champs in front of the home crowd.
Following one of the biggest wins in program history, Holyoke Head Coach Rob Galazka commented " We didn't play our best the first two times we played them this year, today we played our best. As good as Bunker Hill is, it's tough to beat us when we play our best."
Since their last loss on October 11, Holyoke has rattled off five straight wins and will now advance to the District Championship Game against The Fashion Institute of Technology. The game will be held this Thursday at Holyoke Community College at 2 pm with the winner advancing to the National Championship round.
Saturday's Semi-Final Holyoke Scoring Summary (11-0 vs .Massasoit CC) -
Goals: Masciotra (3), Klinkowski (2), Strycharz (2), Lopez (2), Peters, Cominoli
Assists: Masciotra (2), Cominoli (2), Perry (2), Teixeira, Jaskula, McCarthy, Rivera, Peters
Sunday's Final Holyoke Scoring Summary (2-1 against vs.CC) -
Goals: Jaskula, Kachinski
Photos: (Left) The 2012 Lady Cougars, New England regional champs. (Right) Freshman Kara Peters maneuvers the ball against Massassoit in the semi-final game.
Story by Matt Patenaude